Take a wild guess. How long have skates been around? Skate artifacts from Scandinavia date back 6000 years. Ice skates were made out of animal bone with leather straps. The handcrafted skates were used on frozen lakes for transportation and recreation. This favorite pastime of kings and queens is now convenient, affordable, easy and fun for everyone.
While ice sure is nice, modern day skates with wheels give us real freedom. It is estimated that over a billion people engage in some form of skating globally, with ages ranging from 2-102 years young. Skating is a universal language
Whatever you’re into, there’s a style for you, your family and friends, too. You can roll, stroll, race, dance, jump, grind, glide and slide. Perhaps you’d prefer to pick up a hockey stick or chuck a chick at a rollerderby bout. If none of those suit you, how about rollersoccer, rollerbasketball, downhill, off-road, weaving around cones or making up your own?
Inline skate wheels are arranged in a single row, while traditional quad skates have side-by-side wheels. Quads may be considered ‘70s retro style, but their popularity among derby and dance skaters proves they’re here to stay. However, the inline design is more conducive to handling outside conditions and transitions.
Ever fantasized about gracefully gliding along Kelly Drive? Think you can’t? Regardless of your opinion, if you can walk, you can roll in control! You’re not too tall or uncoordinated at all. And, neither your ankles nor knees are too weak. Body weight and shape don’t change the rules. You have no bad habits like rabbits if you’ve never laced up before. If you’ve already given it a whirl, don’t be discouraged if you spent more time on your behind or found yourself hanging onto the railing–knowing that you resembled an out-of-control monkey on skates. It may surprise you that monkeys can skate great, perform tricks and do back flips, too. They don’t suffer from emotional barriers like we do.
When I started skating, my lack of both coordination and athletic ability were easy to blame for my inability to skate. Why bother taking a class if practice is supposed to make perfect? At the rate I was progressing, it would take a lifetime before I could negotiate anything on skates. When I was finally able to push and roll, I realized that wasn’t the hard part. Changing terrains and stopping seemed impossible. Little did I know, there is a secret to skating.
Some people just naturally get up and go their first time around, but even they can’t stop without a prop. Stopping on skates is anything but innate. I didn’t have a brake on my inline skates because a friend removed it, telling me I didn’t need it. Well, I guess not, since I didn’t know how to use it anyway. The only methods at my disposal were to start praying immediately and then “ride it out,” or slam into any inanimate object in my vicinity. Fortunately, I never took anyone down with me. It was years before I could stop on my own, even ineffectively. And back then, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it again.
My public display of learning how to skate the hard way, gained me the reputation of a flapping, flailing “can’t stand up” comedian. I made the mistakes all beginners make–staring down at the ground, throwing my arms around, locking my knees and sticking my butt out, no doubt. If I only knew then what I know now, I could’ve saved years of practice, along with my hide and pride.
Ability…schmability. I was elated to discover that I was entirely wrong about that. It was like a light bulb went off in my head after plowing into a statue of Ben Franklin. Perhaps a transfer of mental energy occurred which enlightened me to the fact that there is a science behind skating. If I could teach myself the science, I could teach the world.
By combining math and physics, I acquired the kind of knowledge you can’t get in college–yet. The results of my experiments confirmed my theories. My actions produced the predicted reactions. With a little help from Sir Isaac Newton, I developed Jenny Jen’s Laws of Skating–balance, direction, motion, and speed. Finally, I could make my skates do what I wanted them to. It was like magic, but it was science.
Although it seemed obvious that the same laws applied to all kinds of skates–quads, ice, and inlines–I needed evidence. My previous experiences on ice had left me with the distinct impression that it was simply too slippery for me. Despite my reservations, I eagerly applied my formulas which taught me how to skate on ice in no time. To make my laws easy to remember, I turned them into rhymes.
Believe it or not, you don’t need skates to learn how to skate. You can get the confidence on your feet, before getting in the driver’s seat. After all, you wouldn’t drive a car or ride a bike without knowing how to stop or steer your wheels, would you? Before lacing up, I highly recommend that everyone learn how to use their tools to skate cool.
Skating rinks all over the tri-state area offer skate rentals and instructions. The majority don’t provide protective gear, so bring your own! Most skating injuries are preventable, but wearing gear is not enough. Gear must be worn securely, and you need know how to use it properly! Pads act as protection during accidental landings, but did you know that you can use them intentionally to bail when all else fails? The the only safe way to escape on bikes, boards and skates, is to glide, slide and save your hide. So, if you ride or roll, slide it on, so you can slide on it!
Most rinks also offer public sessions. They play music and have modern day conveniences such as climate control, bathrooms, water and lockers. I love to see families letting the good times roll. On occasion though, I’ve witnessed parents lifting their kid up by the arms to help them stay afloat. Instead of helping, they’re preventing their kid from skating. In order to roll, weight has to be on skates, not suspended in the air.
Don’t buy skates that aren’t comfortable, look cheap or are larger than your shoe size. (Note: unisex equals men’s sizes.) Once they’re broken in, skates can expand a whole size! For kids, companies make extendable skates that grow. Extra space inside skates can cause lack of control and blisters. Spin the wheels with your hand to make sure they turn around a few times. And, don’t forget to maintain your skates!
Some of the best outdoor skating on earth is right here in Fairmount Park, the biggest urban park in the world. Rollin’ around “the Drive” really makes me feel alive! The uninterrupted eight mile path consists of Kelly Drive (aka East River Drive) with the other side, West River Drive (aka Martin Luther King Drive). Closed to cars on weekend days (April through October) for recreational use, the recently paved West River Drive is as smooth as a baby’s bottom and features the river view of Boathouse Row.
Have you come across a pack of skaters flying through our streets? Race over to Landskaters.org to find out how you can become a member. How about those funky dance skaters jammin’ in front of Lloyd Hall? The City of Brotherly Love is a great place to skate and spectate!
Skating is a fantastic family activity and a marvelous way to meet people. It is also my primary mode of transpo. Additionally, it is a proven fact that skating is low impact and helps burn fat, along with hundreds of calories hourly. I have friends who actually found their soul mates on skates. Skating is good for your mind, body and soul!
Take a trip over to www.Skate101.com for free safety tips and tricks. You’ll also find free music videos that will teach you how to fall safe, gear up, maintain your skates, and more. Have no fear, Skatewoman is here!
Written by Jenny Jen, “the Skatewoman,” Goldstein
Goldstein’s thesis on skating, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, rolled her right inline. After graduation, she became a certified skate instructor and opened Skate 101, Philly’s skate school. Basketball legend Julius Erving (aka Dr. J) and actor John Cusack are among her thousands of students. Aware that qualified instructors were rare, she found a way to share her expertise with people everywhere. Jenny Jen invented “how to” skate songs, so everyone could follow along in the privacy of their own homes. She rapped her rhymes over funky rhythms by Taki76, and landed a top ten single of the year in the Village Voice with her debut track, “Boogie Back Rap.” Her instructional music CDs teach the world how to skate on quads, ice, and inlines. The rest is history. Today she’s the Dr. Seuss and Sir Isaac Newton of Skating.
Her numerous television appearances include Discovery’s The Learning Channel, Comcast Sportnet, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox Networks. Countless magazines and newspapers have featured her, including the world’s biggest hip hop magazine, XXL Magazine, Jewish Exponent, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Daily News, Working Woman, Health, Philadelphia Inquirer and Citipaper. At present, Goldstein is producing the Skatewoman Super Series, a multimedia “how to skate” product line, including comic books, music videos, and more. According to Goldstein, “Skatewoman, the world’s only rappin’ skate instructor, saves lives and pride worldwide.” Like the Declaration of Independence, both Jenny Jen’s Laws of Skating and Skatewoman were born in Philadelphia, and represent “liberty on skates for all.” Want to learn more about Skatewoman, or Jenny Jen, who is also Philadelphia’s only inline skate instructor? Boogie on over to www.SKATEWOMAN.com